December 4, 2002
must tell the truth
Editor's note: This is the debut
publication of "Integrity Matters," a question-and-answer
column that will appear each Wednesday on The Californian
Business page. Jim Bracher is founder of the Bracher Center
for Integrity in Leadership in Monterey. Bracher welcomes
readers' questions on business-related ethics and values.
Please write in care of INTEGRITY to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The center's Web site is www.brachercenter.com.
(E-002) What obligation for truthfulness does management
have with employees? Obviously, Enron stepped over the
line by outright lying to employees. But how much truth
is enough? When business prospects are down, when consolidations
or reorganizations are being considered, when units are
being sold or spun off, when business strategies change
- all with potentially adverse impact on employees' continued
employment - how much information should be shared with
those being impacted?
Response: Management has 100 percent responsibility
to deal with all of its stakeholders truthfully. Leaders
provide appropriate information - as they see it. Sometimes
optimism may seem naïve in hard times. When circumstances
fail to improve, then these same leaders can be accused
of ignorance or malfeasance. They make mistakes.
leadership can never skirt the truth. Timing of the telling
of the truth requires judgment, which can be imperfect.
leaders err on the side of disclosure. Look for patterns
and act accordingly. If someone lies one time, that is
an event, or, perhaps, even a misunderstanding. If they
lie twice, there is a pattern. If they lie a third time,
it has become a habit. Habits are hard to change.
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